Five Rivers Trust, Fish and Game discuss struggling species

  • Spotted turtles are one of the animals listed among New Hampshire Fish and Game’s species of concern. AP file

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2015, decided not to list American eels under the Endangered Species Act. However, N.H. Fish and Game includes it on its species of special concern list. AP file

  • Bat populations have been suffering from white-nose syndrome. Protecting breeding grounds and roosting areas can help preserve the species. AP file

  • A spotted turtle at Region 8 DEC headquarters in Avon, N.Y., Wednesday, March 11, 2009. (AP Photo/David Duprey) David Duprey—AP

Monitor staff
Saturday, June 10, 2017

New Hampshire’s diverse wildlife is a popular selling point for tourists and locals alike to view while enjoying the scenery.

However, some of those species are struggling.

At its annual meeting Wednesday, the Five Rivers Conservation Trust has invited state Fish and Game biologist Emily Preston to speak on some of those in the Capital area that need help and what people can do about it.

Preston said some of the creatures in the greater Concord area that are endangered or on the state’s “Species of Special Concern” list are bats, turtles, pollinators (like bees), eels and the Karner Blue Butterfly.

The species are declining for different reasons. For example, bats are suffering from the white-nose syndrome. Protecting their breeding habitat is one way to help keep the bats well.

Four of seven species of turtles native to New Hampshire –Blanding’s turtle, spotted turtle, wood turtle, box turtle – are among those identified as species in greatest need of conservation. Turtles need large areas of wetlands away from heavy traffic, but their habitat overlaps with the highest human population density in New Hampshire.

Eel numbers have reached a historic low, according to a 2012 survey. The justification for the drop stems from commercial harvesting, dams, poor environmental conditions and pollution in riverways.

Bees are declining across the U.S. and several species once common in the Northeast are now only found in certain areas of the Midwest. Fragmentation and loss of habitat, along with use of pesticides, are blamed for the decline.

Of the issues the different species face, Preston said, “habitat loss or degradation is a big one.”

Since 2015, N.H. Fish and Game has used its Wildlife Action Plan to work with conservation partners for the benefit of wildlife and land management, which lists how it prioritizes its goals.

It’s that information that is put to use by land conservation groups like Five Rivers.

“Wildlife is a critical component of the greater Capital region’s ecosystem and they provide a window into the natural world for everyone from the child who finds a newt along a trail to the adult who encounters a beaver while paddling on their local pond,” said Beth McGuinn, executive director of Five Rivers Conservation Trust. “Five Rivers strives to conserve important habitat to help support the wildlife species that are threatened by changes to the land.”

In the past year, Five Rivers has conserved four properties of more than 400 acres total in four towns in the region, including the Stone Farm in Dunbarton and the Keegan Farm in Boscawen.

All of them have wildlife habitat value, McGuinn said.

McGuinn said the organization uses data from Fish and Game’s Wildlife Action Plan to advise what areas are in need of protection.

Five Rivers conserves land in two ways: It owns land that it manages for recreation and wildlife habitat and it partners with landowners to guide restrictions that will ensure the land is conserved for wildlife habitat and forestry and agricultural purposes.

Fish and Game also works with the UNH Cooperative Extension in a project called Taking Action for Wildlife. On its website, takingactionforwildlife.org, the partnership provides resources for communities, landowners and conservation groups on how to support conservation efforts.

Preston encourages municipalities – cities and towns – to take inventory of the natural resources in the area, such as wetlands, drinking water sources, forests and popular fishing areas and trails. From there, the municipality can determine what areas need to be preserved and other areas suitable for business and development.

For landowners, Preston recommended a similar idea, looking at their property to determine what would be good for wildlife. If you have forest land, even a little, it’s important to leave dead trees as long as they are safe, because they are important for nesting and as a food source.

Small yards can be a good place to encourage pollinators by growing pesticide-free flowering plants. The UNH Co-operative Extension provides lots of information on pollinators, Preston said. 

Another way people can help support wildlife is by giving them space while spectating. Preston said that if an animal is looking at you, you’re too close. Human presence does affect animals, she said. You want to remain far enough away that you’re not perceived as a threat and disturb them. 

The annual gathering will begin at 5 p.m. and the presentation will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. There is no charge to attend, but a donation of $5 to $10 to cover food and expenses is suggested. You must register in advance at 5rct.org; the specific Concord location of the meeting will be shared after you register.